People using headphones to listen to loud music are being warned to pump down the volume.
The advice from experts comes as a new study found that two-out-of-five Australians who regularly use headphones believe they have some form of hearing loss.
The study's co-author Elizabeth Beach says people should keep the volume below 80 per cent and limit listening time to no more than 1.5 hours a day.
"It really boils down to three simple questions: How loud, how long, and how often do you listen?" she said.
Researchers at the National Acoustic Laboratories at Macquarie University assessed the impact of personal listening devices (PLDs) on the hearing of more than 4000 Australians.
"We found that 41 per cent of participants reported feeling they have a hearing loss, with 20 per cent reporting difficulties with speech in noise," lead investigator Megan Gilliver said.
Unsurprisingly teenagers listen to their PLDs the most, with 15-to-19 year olds tuned in for an average 88 hours a month. This drops to 47 hours a month among the over 50s.
Average listening volume stayed fairly similar across age groups at around 48-55 per cent of the maximum volume of a device.
Those who listened at high volumes for long durations, in all age groups were more likely to report hearing difficulties, particularly in relation to speech and conversation, Dr Gilliver said.
"These results suggest a potential relationship between PLD use and speech-in- noise hearing difficulties, indicating that PLD users need to be aware that their listening habits could be impacting their ability to hear in other settings," Dr Gilliver said.
Dr Beach suggests some retail therapy could alleviate the problem.
"If you're a regular listener, it's a good idea to invest in a pair of good quality, well-fitting, noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones.
Not only will you appreciate the sound quality, you'll find you won't need to use your volume control to drown out unwanted background sounds."
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